Published: September 23rd 2007July 21st 2007
Inside the monster
A collection of random war artifacts inside the bunker, illuminated by flashlight.
For the first time in over a week we get rain. And, of course, it has to happen in the middle of the night. Quickly get out of the tent, pull the rain cover over the tent, and retreat back into the dry inside. Fortunately, the rain doesn't last and is gone by the time we get up in the morning.
A coffee and some bread later, we're back on the road towards Lithuania. If everything goes according to plan, today should be our last day in Poland, we'll cross the border tomorrow. Just when I'm starting to get used to Poland, am able to get bread and cheese in the shops, and can at least ask for directions, we'll be thrown into a new country with a completely different language. Also, I've left my language guide for Lithuania in Berlin at Hans' house, in a frenzy of "minimize the weight on my bike" - something I'm starting to regret now. Let's hope my English gets me somewhere. Maybe I'll be able to find a language guide at the border? What languages? Polish-Lithuanian? That would be perfect!
The road starts off a bit hilly, and a decent headwind doesn't
View from the top
The Germans certainly had a nice view of the town from here.
make getting up the hills any easier. At Baklarzewo, I see a sign for a German Bunker from WWII, decide to have a look. Hans doesn't show any interest and takes a break at the entrance to the town instead. It takes me a while to find the bunker, as the signs stop as soon as one leaves the main road. When I get there, I have to pay 4 zloty, get handed a flashlight, and the "guide" opens the entrance. Cold, humid air hits me as I enter the bunker, where the Polish have set up a small exhibition in the first room, showing some mines, a puppet of a soldier - all sorts of unrelated memorabilia from the war. Slowly, I use the flashlight to make my way further into the bunker, always with the feeling that someone might just close the door behind me and lock me in. I finally even get brave enough to take the stairs down to the lower level, where the efforts of my hosts haven't quite made it yet. No more exhibition, no more signs, just a few bottles of beer stored in a corner to keep them cold. At least this
Hans' answer to my trip to the bunker.
monster is of use to someone...
Back in town, Hans is now sound asleep and I take the chance to update my diary. Once he wakes up and we're back on the road, we're in for a ride from hell: no shade, heavy lorry traffic, with steep hills on the side don't make for a nice ride. Finally, we get to Suwalki, where we come just on time for a Folklore festival: on the main square, flanked by two churches (the further East we go, the more of them there are), vendors have set up stands to sell sausages, tasteless cheese, and strange bagel-looking bread on strings, while we are entertained by folklore music from the region. I later learn that the region is (not too surprisingly) ethically very mixed, there is a significant Lithuanian minority there.
After taking in the atmosphere at the festival for a while, we make our way eastward, into the Wigiersky Natioinal Park, home of the famous Zubrowka vodka, a bottle of which seems to make it to every party in Edinburgh, as soon as at least one Polish person is present - and there is at least one Polish person at pretty
The live music stage. It's as if they put this show up just for us tourists.
much any party in Edinburgh. First, we find a small cycle path next to the road that leads us straight through the National Park. First stop is a lovely idyllic lake. I take a swim and feel like the first human to have bathed in the lake in centuries, it's so calm and untouched, with pitch-black water. The path then continues to wind through the park, ever up and down, much to Hans' dismay. Even though he is complaining, in my opinion the views make up for the bad road completely. Just goes to show: most of the time, you either get a good view or a good road.
When the path meets the main road again, we find a small restaurant with a very rare sight: people are sitting outside, live music playing, having a drink and some dinner - something we haven't come across much at all. We join two Polish guys at their table and order some food and drinks. They turn out to be (as everybody else here probably) from Warsaw, on vacation in the area, and one of them speaks quite good English, while the other sticks to exclaiming "cool dude" at intervals. We
I probably would like that as well if I had these strange bread-like things around my neck.
have a little chat, mostly about Polish people and I use the chance to get their views on Lithuanians and Belarussians. They say that people are pretty much the same across the region, but they can't understand why Belarus is isolating itself off from the rest of Europe so much. I can't answer that question either, but it's good to hear someone not predicting that we'll get robbed and our scalps sold in Belarus, as most Polish up to this point have predicted.
After dinner, we continue on and soon find the R11, an "international cycle route" going through the Baltic region to Finland (by ferry, I assume). As it claims to lead us into Lithuania, we decide to follow it. The ride turns out to be scenic for sure, but leads us through every every so tiny village along the way, passing dozens of campsites along the way - seems like people have just set up campsites in their gardens to accommodate the massive amounts of tourists that flood the region in the summer. We continue riding until it's almost pitch dark, when we finally find a piece of woodland with a small path off the main road.
Pitch-black water and bubbles rising from the floor make for an interesting swimming experience.
Hans wants to just camp right on the path ("nobody will come along here anymore"). Luckily, I manage to convince him to pitch the tent slightly off the path, out of sight. Good choice, it turns out, as soon later a motorbike passes along the path, followed by two cyclists and a car, before the motorbike returns. We are sung to sleep by the usual songs of barking dogs somewhere far off...
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